February 26, 2009
Kathy Gerwig Highlights Kaiser Permanente’s Environmental Work in Congressional Testimony
Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president for Workplace Safety and environmental stewardship officer, testified Thursday before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, about Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to curb the use of potentially toxic substances.
The committee is reviewing the Toxic Substances Control Act and is looking to organizations such as Kaiser Permanente for lessons learned regarding the environment, health and the impact of potentially toxic substances. The testimony was timely because environmental sustainability is a major focus of President Barack Obama’s economic recovery and government reform efforts.
Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 book "Silent Spring," delivered a keynote address in 1963 to 1,500 Kaiser Permanente physicians and scientists, and other guests. It was Carson's last public address before she died. Kathy Gerwig referenced Carson's address in her remarks before Congress. "Silent Spring" is widely credited with launching today's environmental movement.
Kaiser Permanente has been working for years to curb its environmental impact and improve the health of the communities it serves by using safer chemicals, building greener hospitals, reducing waste and using less energy. The organization is also taking the initiative to “green” the health care industry by leveraging its purchasing power. For example, the organization has virtually eliminated mercury, a neurotoxin, from its operations, purging almost 1,400 pounds of mercury from its facilities over the last 10 years. In doing so, Kaiser Permanente helped create markets for alternative devices.
“As we strive to advance an economy where the production and use of chemicals are not harmful for humans or to the environment around us, we invest significant time and resources,” Gerwig testified. “That degree of investment is simply not feasible for most products and materials we buy, nor is it possible for smaller organizations that do not have the resources and organizational skills that Kaiser Permanence has developed over decades. Mechanisms are needed to support downstream users in procuring the safest products and materials for our needs.”
Read Gerwig’s full testimony , hosted at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Web site.